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Back to the future with biometrics.

To fully appreciate the opportunities biometric technology will offer security practitioners in access and data control in the 1990s, it's necessary to reflect on the evolution of this science through the past two decades.

The first newspaper article referring to the development of personal identification verification appeared in 1973 in the Pacific Stars and Stripes. It noted the premise of this technology was that certain characteristics of the human body are sufficiently different between individuals and that these characteristics may be enrolled and verified against future samples to determine the identity of a person. An article titled "Research and Development of Personal Identity Verification Systems" was presented to the 1974 Carnahan Conference. This article introduced the type 1 and type 11 error rate considerations. While the initial efforts in the late 1970s were expensive and offered unacceptable error rates, they nevertheless laid the foundation for advanced development and production through the 1980s. Initial studies with voice verification involved up to 10,000 bits of information per person, with fingerprint verification up to 3,000 bits per person, and with signature verification up to 500 bits per person. This effort-considered by many in the security field to be an effort in the realm of science fiction - was considered essential by a small nucleus of people who understood the limitations of card access technology. Card technology was undergoing further development for the 1980s and resolved many of the security problems encountered with lock and key technology. These systems provided many internal controls such as time zones, antipassback, multiple access levels, and reductions in operating costs. The one thing they could not do, however, was ensure individual recognition to the system owner. We still cannot ensure the identity of the carrier. * Keypad technology evolved from facility codes used by individuals assigned to a single portal to the use of individual personal identification numbers (PINS). PINS are a combination of a facility code and an additional series of numbers assigned to a specific person.

While PINS offered a better chance to determine individual responsibility, they can still be easily obtained by others with or without the Pin-holder's knowledge. Yet, PINS still offer a higher level of security in card access systems.

During the 1980s the first and second generations of biometric access technologies were introduced. High-end security designations were assigned to eye and fingerprint devices. Units that verified voice were reduced to 180 bytes per word, fingerprints to 400 bytes per finger, and handwriting to 40 bytes per person. The prices of individual units tumbled from the $20,000 range in the late 1970s to $1,000 per portal or data device by the end of the 1980s.

The type I error rate-rejection of an authorized person-fell from 10 percent rejection to 1 percent or less. The type 11 error rate-admission of an unauthorized person-plunged from I percent to as low as .001 percent.

Production advances reduced unit sizes, and hand geometry evolved from a two-dimensional to a more secure three-dimensional capability. Voice verification was no longer handicapped by the introduction of numbers or foreign languages or defeated by high-quality tape recorders. Signature dynamics allowed the use of everyday ballpoint pens and, with frequency of use, reduced the requirement of a full signature down to initials or the surname.

The counterfeiting threat of biometric devices was reduced through the introduction of thermal readers and selected software techniques. Enrollment times fell from a five- to 10-minute range to a 20-second to three-minute range maximum. The time to verify the identity of an individual fell from two minutes down to a more acceptable fraction of a second to 10 seconds.

Through the visibility gained by seminars, the elevated status of association subcommittees, and exceptionally good information dissemination, the level of education on biometric technology has grown. The subject, which in the late 1970s was known to less than 10 percent of security professionals, now enjoys recognition by over 80 percent.

The 1980s saw a 90 percent growth in the dollar value of biometric devices sold. The decade also enjoyed a 167 percent growth in the number of biometric units shipped. As the 1980s closed, the clear front-runners were voice verification, fingerprint verification, and signature dynamics.

What can we expect in the 1990s? Biometric technology will become more integrated with today's existing card systems. There will be a continued and rapid growth of voice verification to the point where it will be applied to residential security. There will also be growth of fingerprint technology in large systems involving driver licensing, criminal records, correctional facilities, and visitor verification.

Signature dynamics will emerge as a major solution to the problem of lost and stolen credit cards especially at the point of sale. Enrollment and verification times will be further reduced. The cost per unit will stabilize around the $400 to $2,500 range with economies of scale driving prices even further downward.

The 1990s should see the introduction of a new family of stand-alone, biometric-driven access control and data control units. These units will not depend on large, centralized computer systems or the distributed processing units of the 1980s. Such stand-alone units will open biometric uses up to small businesses, professional buildings, residences, aircraft and weapon system facilities, and auto security.

In conjunction with the ever-developing smart card technology, it will be possible to verify samples submitted to the stand-alone units with samples stored and protected within smart cards. Given enough time, one stand-alone portal system could accurately process the population of the world without additional system support.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; biometric technology in security systems
Author:Barry, Joseph A., III; Hawks, Randall
Publication:Security Management
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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